SAPPORO – Rookie Sho Miyagawa allowed just one hit in seven innings Monday as the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles beat the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 5-0 and Japan’s newest franchise moved closer to its first Pacific League pennant.
The Eagles, who began playing as an expansion team in 2005, lowered their magic number to clinch the pennant to three. They beat the Fighters for the sixth straight time. Rakuten can clinch as early as Wednesday, when the Eagles take on the Seibu Lions at Seibu Dome.
Miyagawa (2-0) was making his first career start. The 22-year-old right-hander allowed five walks, but kept the defending PL champs, currently the cellar dwellers, hitless until the sixth inning.
“I was so nervous I couldn’t sleep last night or eat breakfast this morning,” said Miyagawa, whom the Eagles selected in last autumn’s developmental draft. “I just wanted to concentrate on each batter and try to get him out.
“I didn’t imagine I’d last seven innings. I was leaving a lot of balls up in the strike zone, and my teammates kept telling me, ‘Keep it down, keep it down.’ That fired me up.”
The Eagles got on the board in a four-run third inning against Hiroshi Kisanuki (9-7) on a two-run double by Ginji Akaminai and a two-run single by Andruw Jones. The right-hander allowed four runs on seven hits and two walks over just 2⅓ innings.
Hawks 5, Marines 4
At QVC Marine Field, Nao Higashihama (1-1), Fukuoka Softbank’s top draft pick last autumn, allowed three runs in six innings in his first start since April as the Hawks beat second-place Chiba Lotte to snap a three-game losing skid.
The Hawks’ Nobuhiro Matsuda broke a 3-3 tie with a two-run, seventh-inning single. Ryota Igarashi worked a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his 12th save.
Lions 3, Buffaloes 2 (11)
At Kyocera Dome, Seibu captain Takumi Kuriyama’s 11th-inning sacrifice fly snapped a 2-2 tie and the Lions held on to beat Orix and return to .500. Tatsuya Oishi retired all three batters he faced in the ninth for his eighth save.
Tigers 2, Swallows 0
At Koshien Stadium, Randy Messenger (12-7) threw a three-hit shutout without issuing a walk as Hanshin defeated Tokyo Yakult and clinched a spot in the CL playoffs. The loss knocked the Swallows, playoff participants the last two seasons, out of postseason contention.
Giants 4, Carp 3
At Tokyo Dome, Jose Lopez singled in two runs in the first inning, and Shuichi Murata and Hayato Sakamoto doubled in a run apiece, as Yomiuri beat Hiroshima the day after clinching its second straight CL pennant.
Lefty Nobutaka Imamura (1-0) allowed two runs in six innings to earn his first career victory. He allowed seven hits and a walk, while striking out eight. Kentaro Nishimura equaled a team record with his 41st save.
Dragons 7, BayStars 4
At Yokohama Stadium, Chunichi snapped a 3-3 tie in the ninth, when Yokohama third baseman Norihiro Nakamura failed to stop a grounder with the bases loaded for a two-run error. A wild pitch and an RBI single tacked on two more runs as closer Jorge Sosa (2-4) allowed four unearned runs against his former team.